Category Archives: Investigations

Eliza’s story – Part 1

Mary Allen McCall back row left, her son James, his wife Margaret. Grandaughters Victoria and Margaret in front. Late 1920’s. Jennie Allen Turner seated left, Mary Vee, Fannie, Doris.Back Mershell holding Howard. Early 1930’s. Detroit, MI

“My mother was the first child of my grandmother who was one of seven children born to Dock Allen, a free man and Eliza, a woman freed from slavery at seventeen. Before being freed this woman, my mother’s grandmother had been trained as a seamstress in the “big house” of the white master, Colonel Edmund Harrison, who was her father. Her mother, Annie, was the slave seamstress in the “big house”. For three generations, in slavery and in freedom, each mother taught her daughters to sew. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama. But she never taught my mother or her other two daughters to sew.”

My mother wrote me this as part of a piece she was writing about her own mother, Fannie Turner Graham. We grew up hearing it. There was also the part about Colonel Harrison’s wife. She was so angry about her husband having this child, my great great grandmother Eliza, with a slave that she was cruel to both Annie and and Eliza. Col. Harrison, the story went, finally freed both of them and married Eliza to a free man, Dock Allen, who was a carpenter in Montgomery, Alabama.

Because he was always referred to as “Colonel Harrison of Virginia” I pictured him driving Annie and Eliza in a carriage from Virginia to Montgomery, finding a free carpenter and arranging a marriage between his daughter and the carpenter before returning to his plantation in Virginia. I wasn’t really clear on the distance or terrain between Virginia and Montgomery, AL but I wondered why he took her all the way to Alabama. Later I read that freed slaves had to be taken out of the state they had been enslaved in.

In 1980 my mother began writing down her memories and stories of all her great aunts, Eliza’s daughters. She wrote about her mother and about herself growing up too. She made duplicates and sent my sister and myself both copies.

In one she mentioned a strange phone call from her cousin Margaret McCall Ward, who was a librarian and a genealogist and a founder of the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society in Detroit. The first black genealogical group in Michigan. My mother wrote:

“Note of recent strange happening here: Teen (note: a longtime family friend) is still working on her family tree and sees Margaret who works in that dept. of the library. Margaret kept sending word to me by Teen that she would be happy to help if I wanted to get the family history together….I never called….but finally did one day when Teen insisted….somewhere in the conversation Margaret said of course you know our grandmothers were not really sisters (Aunt Mary and Grandmother Turner whom I had always thought were Dock Allen’s children…had never heard a suggestion of anything else)..I said o really…how…she mumbled…I mentioned Dock…she said you’ve seen the sisters you know how different they looked…I knew she meant some were light like her grandmother and some were dark like mine… they had different mothers? I said..she mumbled again (I have never heard her mumble before …different fathers? I said, really intrigued by this deep family secret now to be uncovered…more any rate, I said, if they weren’t sisters, we aren’t cousins, right?…more mumbles…I let it go, said good-bye and crossed her off the family list….who needs her?…. then a few weeks ago (the other conversation on the phone was months ago) she sends word by Teen that as she was helping someone search records she came across a record pertaining to our family and it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our grandmothers were sisters and we are cousins. I told Teen off again on again cousins I do not need and have heard no more…but I’m curious about what she was talking about in the first place and what she found in what records…I mentioned it to MV who had never heard it…she called Aunt Gwen (the only one left in that generation to talk to) who is the gossip of the group who said as far as she knew they were all full sisters and brothers (there were two of these.) I await further developments but not with baited breath…”

In 1982 my mother died of ovarian cancer. I inherited her photographs, scrapbooks and letters which she had inherited from her mother. In 1991 I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s only sister, Mary Vee and asked her to tell me about her parents and grandmother. She told me the little she knew and suggested I write to cousin Margaret asking for help with the family tree. I did. A year later I received a reply filling in blanks in the tree. She wrote that my letter revived her interest in looking at this branch of the family again, and be sure to look her up if I got to Detroit.

For other parts of the story

More of Jacob’s Bible

Inside cover of Jacob's Bible


Elias Hopkins
presented to him by his brother + sisterinlaw
James + Elizabeth Canfield
July 4th 1875
(Initials that I can’t make out. First seems to be Y)

Who are these people and how did they happen to give Jacob Graham the Bible in 1913? It is a small pocket size New Testament. The edges of the pages are golden. It has a flap that used to open and close but it is all starting to fall apart. I don’t want to handle it more then I can help. But here is one last scan.

Wordless Wednesday – Inside cover of Mershell Grahams Bible

I have not found out how these people are connected to my grandfather Mershell Graham.

So much for wordless….
After posting this I decided to go look for Jacob Graham at Family Search. I used the pilot program and found a death record for Jacob Graham who died June 30, 1913 at the Salvation Army Fresh Air Camp. I googled the Fresh Air Camp and found several photographs in the Alabama Archives about Fresh Air camps the Salvation army ran in Montgomery for Old men and others for poor women and children. I also found a google book “By Alabama. Dept. of Archives and History”, Thomas McAdory Owen, an entry that mentioned under the section Benevolent Insititutions in Alabama, that the Salvation army had a Fresh Air Camp on the upper Wetumpka Road, founded in 1911 conducted by the Montgomery Anti-Tuberculosis League for tubercular cases.( Alabama official and statistical register.) I’m sending for the death certificate.

Who was Eliza?

First posted on May 24, 2010

Eliza was my great great grandmother. We grew up hearing a story about her. In this blog I will talk about how I found her using a combination of oral history, records and lots of help from cousins and cousins of cousins.

This first post, though, is just to get my feet wet. Yesterday I heard Luckie Daniels talk about genealogical blogging during our AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter meeting. This morning I decided to dive in and set one up. I was pretty surprised to learn that I already had two accounts with Google Blogger. I set one up in 2007 and one in 2009 but never actually set up a blog. In my confusion I used the name I wanted for my blog on one account and set up to follow several blogs on the other account. I cannot find a way to delete one or the other so my plan is to use this blog and this account for everything.

Now, how do I get an interesting view, a couple of columns and some photographs on here…..

12 Responses to Who was Eliza?

  1. Luckie. says:
    May 25, 2010 at 11:58 am

    These are exciting times Kristin! I am so proud of the AAHGS members who have decided to make the genea-leap!:-)Definitely consider joining the Genealogy community on –> they will be a GREAT pool of info as you get started. I’m also including the URL to a “Blogger Cheat Sheet” created by Thomas at on the “Blogger” PDF link. This should answer some of your immediate questions.Just know that we are thrilled to have Metro Atlanta AAHGS repping online & are here to help!:-)

  2. May 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Kristin,I am so excited to see that you enjoyed Luckie’s presentation, and that you’ve joined the genea-blogging community. As Luckie said above, please also consider joining the genealogy community on Twitter; there are lots of bloggers there ready to welcome you aboard.I looking forward to reading about your journey to Finding Eliza.Sandra

  3. May 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Congratulations Kristin!I just I’ve added it to the blog list at GeneaBloggers. In addition, I’ve made sure your blog is listed in our search engine ( so that it may be searched along with over 1,000 other genealogy blogs. Finally, I will also highlight your blog in my weekly This Week’s New Genealogy Blogs post on Saturday, 29 May 2010.Is there anything you need from us in terms of tech assistance or other advice? Check out the GeneaBloggers Welcome Wagon for lots of info: And if you need technical help, I run a tech blog for bloggers:

  4. Renate says:
    May 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Kristin,Welcome to the blogsphere! I see you have Greens, and I do also, although right now, I don’t know of any connection to Kentucky. Good luck to you as you get started, and I’ll be following along! Renatewww.justthinking130.blogspot.comNadasue on Twitter

  5. May 25, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Welcome to the blogging community, and good luck with your search!

  6. kristin says:
    May 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks to all to all of you for the support. I really appreciate it.

  7. May 28, 2010 at 5:53 am

    This is great! It is in such nice little stories and pieces it makes it very easy to see the connections. I am not sure how to follow you but I will save to favorites and check back in.

  8. Kristin says:
    May 28, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Ayanna, great to have a daughter reading the blog. i think to get your picture there as a follower you have to have a blogger acct or some google acct. but you can still check in and follow me without that. wonder if you could do it with your fb acct?

  9. Angela says:
    May 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Hello Kristin and welcome aboard!Glad to see another member of the blogging community and I look forward to reading the stories of the family as well as the stories of how you have made your discoveries. Welcome to the blogosphere.

  10. Taneya says:
    May 30, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Welcome Kristen! I’ve subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading your future posts.

  11. June 2, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Welcome to the Genea Blogging community. I look forward to reading about your research and your family.

  12. June 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Hallo Kristin,Welcome to this wonderful community of geneabloggers! I recently re-set my blog and one of the best things I did was join Geneabloggers and have made some really great new friends. And I am learning a lot too.If you decide to join Twitter, it would be good to follow you – I am rootsresearcher there.I have found your blog very interesting so far and look forward to seeing further posts from you.Kind regards,Christine – (rootsresearcher) So That’s Where I Get It From and Ancestors at Rest Graveyard Rabbit blogs.